The ‘New Norm’ for B2B Sales and the ‘Digital Customer’By Alexis Langagne Fasén | Wed, 05/11/2022 - 09:00
There is a need for a “New Norm” of selling in the B2B (Business-to-Business) space to achieve sustained success. Two factors are driving this. One is the result of how the “digital customer” prefers to interact in the post-pandemic world, and the other is triggered by a new phase of the internet, called the “ Trivergence,” which is the combination of artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.
I will refer to the digital customer as the customer of the future, but we need to realize that that customer is here with us today. The digital customer was born digital, or has been transformed inside-out with digital technologies. Digital customers also post-pandemic customers and have evolved in terms of the way they like to interact with the external world – suppliers, vendors, and partners.
As all this is going on, companies are figuring out how to define their “new normal,” regarding when and how to get back to the office (where we used to work before the pandemic) and whether that old concept of “office” also needs to be changed.
The new norm of how the digital customer likes to interact in the post-pandemic world is the result of customers being more intensive technology users and also because they now have more time than ever before thanks to the lack of travel and transit times to the office, getting used to video conferences, starting meetings on time, and minimizing chatting over coffee. Therefore, customers now have more time to engage with sellers but, at the same time, they are more demanding than ever and expect greater quality interactions with salespeople in the B2B space.
Let’s call these “new norm” customers simply “digital customers.” Digital customers are raising the bar regarding what they expect from sellers. Those salespeople need to be more:
- Insightful – leveraging facts, data, analytics, industry and competitor trends and lessons from prior interactions to provide valuable insights, test hypotheses regarding new ideas or share specific, successful use cases that can be replicated to create value. All the available knowledge should be leveraged — and increased — in each customer interaction. Therefore, listening skills remain the most important skill when selling.
- Effective and efficient – being a perfectionist regarding all interactions, whether it is thank-you notes, documented next steps, follow-up communications or new meetings, using the right interaction tool and cadence for each type of interaction and customer preference.
- Creative – personalizing every interaction to every customer persona – their company, what they care about and how they like to interact. Learn from each decision-maker and influencer, follow their publications and network so you can identify new ways to engage them. In some cases, some “trial and error” is OK for testing different approaches.
Basically, this digital customer requires a new and modern way of selling. Martyn Lewis, founder and CEO of Market Partners, provides an excellent perspective on this with his article, Steam Driven Selling vs. Modern Selling.”
As mentioned, the other transformational change is a new phase of digital transformation that we are experiencing now. The combination of IoT, AI and blockchain represents new ways of conducting businesses across pretty much every industry. Don Tapscott calls it the Trivergence.
We are talking about having a myriad of devices connected to the internet, capable of sharing data, learning from each interaction, and capable of executing trusted transactions without centralized entities. Yes, it is too much change to fully digest in a single paragraph!
IoT is all about connecting all sorts of smart devices and sensors to the internet, exchanging data with two-way communication, executing transactions, and interacting with humans.
AI is about having devices and systems learning from each interaction and transaction – with other devices and humans. AI helps find answers to complex questions and even recommends the right question to ask, when “we don’t know what we don’t know.” AI makes things better, faster, and smarter each time.
Blockchain is a technology usually associated with cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin), as it is indeed the underlying technology, but its applications go way beyond the crypto world. Blockchain enables a decentralized and transparent “general ledger,” using the internet, without the need for a centralized entity. This general ledger is basically a distributed database where all the records are visible to everyone in the computer network, the data is not managed by any single entity, and no one can tamper with the recorded data.
These three technologies – IoT, AI and blockchain – have transformational merits on their own grounds but when you combine them, that is when the caliber of transformation makes us think about a new wave of the internet: the Trivergence.
The key point is to understand this Trivergence and how it will impact – or is already impacting – your digital customer. As I said, this customer of the future is here today with us, and those future needs are what is needed today. Whether you are a high-tech company or not, it is important to understand how your product/service/solution offering and value proposition intersect with this landscape resulting from the combination of IoT, AI and blockchain; and how those digital customers expect to interact. These two factors represent the “New Norm” of selling in the B2B space, a formidable challenge for companies to face.